Confederations Cup: Brazil must be accepted as genuine contenders after victory over Spain

Brazil are lucky to have probably the world’s two most accomplished centre-backs

There was some legitimate doubt before but Brazil must be accepted as genuine World Cup contenders after winning the Confederations Cup on Sunday night.

Their 3-0 mauling of Spain in Rio de Janeiro was not just their best performance for years – although it certainly was that – but also seemed to mark a moment of development or growth for a team which has been drifting recently.

This Confederations Cup was always hoped to be Brazil’s preparation, of their grounds, their infrastructure and their team. It has also led to convulsions off the pitch, whose outcomes may be far-reaching. But while the public are angry with the football administration, the football team themselves are as much the vessel for national hopes as they always were.

Inside the stadiums, the support for Brazil was fervent and ferocious and Spain, the most successful and accomplished international team of all time, were overwhelmed by the occasion. This does not happen often. But they were running into a host nation who, for the first time since at least the 2007 Copa America, had found the right combination and cohesion of players.

This, ultimately, was what Luiz Felipe Scolari was brought in for, after the consecutive disappointments of the 2010 World Cup, 2011 Copa America and 2012 Olympic games which cost first Dunga and then Mano Menezes their jobs.

But, last night, Brazil played with a focus, intensity and freedom that had been evading them for years. Like most Brazil teams, though, it draws its force from one remarkable individual. Neymar was the best player last night and the best player in the tournament, winning the ‘Golden Ball’ and scoring his fourth special goal in five games with a ferocious drive into the near top corner.

Neymar ran at Spain all evening and they did not like it. Alvaro Arbeloa was booked and taken off at half-time and Gerard Pique sent off in the second half as they struggled to cope with his unique style at speed.

Unlike Robinho, the last great hope to come out of Santos, Neymar was always fully aware of his defensive duties too. Brazil did what Spain so often do to others, pressing from the front and inducing errors. Hulk, on the right wing, is a powerful presence while Fred led the line selflessly and efficiently. He is never going to be Rivaldo but there are worse things to specialise in than dirty goals and he forced in crucial openers against Uruguay in the semis and Spain in the final.

Behind them is Oscar, who may look scrawny in the Premier League but is a tigerish dynamo in a yellow Brazil shirt, and a solid base in Paulinho and Luis Gustavo. But the heart of this Brazil team, and maybe its surprising strength, is at centre-back. For all the lazy clichés about defending in Brazil, they are lucky enough to have probably the world’s two most accomplished centre-backs.

Thiago Silva and David Luiz were both brilliant again on Sunday night, shutting down Spain with their brilliant foresight, assurance, technique and athleticism. With the exception of a few minor panics against Uruguay, they were excellent all tournament and Luiz’s crucial clearance from Pedro at 1-0 came just minutes before Neymar doubled Brazil’s lead. Firmly in place ahead of Julio Cesar, who had an impeccable tournament, they provide a foundation which not many opponents will be able to break through.

Brazil do probably lack the depth of Germany or Spain, or the tournament experience, or the range of goal-scorers. But anything can happen in tournament football and no European team is yet to win a World Cup in the Americas. Brazil are not perfect but, as they showed on Sunday night, they are certainly capable of being good enough.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape